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Classical 101

California Mavericks Rehearsal with Elizabeth Chang

Robert Breithaupt sat down with me Monday evening to discuss the rehearsal that was taking place just down the hall from us deep within the remote basement labyrinth beneath the Capital University Conservatory of Music.

He spoke highly of his students and the adjunct professor accompanying violinist Elizabeth Chang for Lou Harrison’s “Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra,” as well as their fearless conductor Jeff Gershman. Breithaupt, of course, also had high praise for the music itself. The program for the California Mavericks will include:

  • Lou Harrison’s “Song of the Quetzalcoatl” (1941) performed by the Capital University Chamber Percussion Ensemble
  • Henry Cowell’s “Set of Five” (1952) performed by Elizabeth Chang (violin), Maria Staeblein (piano) and Ryan Kilgore (percussion)
  • John Cage’s “One4” (1990) performed by Robert Breithaupt (percussion)
  • Lou Harrison’s “Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra” (1959) conducted by Jeff Gershman and performed by Elizabeth Chang (violin) and the Capital University Chamber Percussion Ensemble.

The students and faculty of Capital University’s Chamber Percussion Ensemble working with various “junkyard instruments.”

One of the most exciting facets of tonight’s FREE performance at Short North Stage is the inclusion of a few rather odd instruments. Have you ever heard terra cotta pottery, tin cans, an overturned cello, or a prepared guitar with metal spirals? What about broken down brake drums from cars? When describing the instruments used in Harrison’s works, one is reminded of percussion ensembles like Stomp or Blue Man Group; this is not that. This is closer to what you might hear at the symphony than in a popular performance by the famous men in blue paint.

Here is just one of the many interesting instruments to be featured in tonight’s ‘California Mavericks’ concert; a prepared guitar with vibrating, metal spirals.

Professor Breithaupt also described a little bit about his own preparation for the piece he will play this evening: John Cage’s “One4.” This is a work that is open to quite a bit of interpretation. It’s a solo work for percussion, but the type of percussion is always up to the performer. Breithaupt will be playing the piece on a drum-set and he mentioned an exciting inclusion of visual cues for the audience. The musical score consists of six time brackets for the left hand and eight for the right, each incorporating just one sound. Thus, there are a total of fourteen sounds heard throughout the entire composition with all choices for dynamics and instrumentation to be left up to the performer.

Lastly, but certainly not least, tonight’s performance will also feature violinist Elizabeth Chang. I listened to her first rehearsal with the chamber percussion ensemble and afterward I could not stop emphasizing her gorgeous intonation and pitch-articulation to my violinist husband. She is fantastic, and I would attend the concert just to listen to her masterful playing.